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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Russian Federation

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Russian Federation, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca111e.html [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 143,800,000
Capital: Moscow
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Amendments to the Labour Code have imposed rules on trade union structures, restricted collective bargaining rights and risk undermining the representative role of unions. Limitations on the right to strike make it almost impossible to hold a legal strike. There were several cases during the year of independent trade union leaders and members facing harassment and intimidation.

Trade union rights in law

Workers have the right to form and join trade unions. However, there are legal restrictions on the organisational structure of trade unions, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.

Labour legislation: The Labour Code of the Russian Federation was adopted in 2002. It substantially weakened trade unions rights in comparison to the Labour Law Code previously in force. It also weakened the protection of organised workers.

Further to complaints by Russian trade unions, the ILO urged the government to amend the Labour Code to bring it in line with international labour standards. After long deliberations, Federal Law No 90-FZ on introducing amendments to the Russian Federation Labour Code was passed on 30 July 2006. The law changed around 300 articles in the Labour Code and abolished a number of previously enforced Acts. The amendments came into force after 6 November, 2006. Only one of recommendations of the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations was partly taken into account account however. The remaining amendments mostly made trade union activity even more complicated.

Rules on structure imposed: The Labour Code imposes rules concerning the structure of trade union organisations as a requirement for legal recognition. Only first level trade unions can represent the employees in dealing with the employer, i.e. within one enterprise. The amendments introduced to the Labour Code further entrenched this system, giving all the rights and guarantees solely to primary trade unions at the enterprise level.

Undermining union representation: Amendments introduced in the Labour Code in July 2006 allow workers to elect a different representative body even if there is a majority trade union in the organisation, if that trade union is not a structural unit of a higher-level trade union.

Collective bargaining: Unlike the previous law on collective bargaining and agreements, the Labour Code does not allow for collective bargaining at the level of individual occupations or for signing professional agreements. The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association recommended that the government change these provisions to enable trade unions to conduct negotiations and sign professional agreements. Article 26 of the Labour Code has been amended, but the amendments still do not allow for the signing of professional agreements, allowing only interregional ones.

For many trade unions, collective bargaining is made problematic by the fact that their structure is different from that required by the Labour Code: there is no first level organisation at the enterprise level, but there is a trade union, several trade unions or a trade union federation.

Only one collective agreement can be signed in each organisation. According to the Labour Code, if there are several trade unions at an enterprise, they must form a unified representative body on the basis of proportional representation (depending on the membership of each trade union) in order to conduct negotiations. If there is no such body, the workers' interests are represented by the organisation uniting over half of all workers, or, in its absence, a different trade union organisation selected by the workers. In accordance with the new version of the Labour Code, the primary organisation uniting over half of all workers can, of its own accord, initiate collective bargaining on behalf of all the workers, without the need to create a united representative body. The other trade unions can be notified later. Such a situation makes it nearly impossible for small-scale trade unions to take part in collective bargaining.

The law on commercial secrets and the Labour Code regulations on workers' personal data protection make it very difficult for the trade unions to obtain the information necessary for collective bargaining.

Limitations on the right to strike: The Labour Code recognises the right to strike, but only under certain conditions. A strike can be held only to resolve a collective labour dispute. The law does not recognise the right to conduct solidarity strikes, strikes demanding the recognition of a trade union, or strikes criticising the government's economic and social policy.

The Labour Code has a complicated procedure in place for putting forward demands with regard to collective labour disputes and calling a strike. There are multiple limitations, which make holding a perfectly legal strike nearly impossible. Legal practice does not support workers; most claims filed by employers result in strikes being declared illegal.

Under the Labour Code the decision to call a strike should be taken at a general assembly of the workers. The revised Labour Code brought down the quorum required for the general assembly from two thirds to 50 per cent of all workers. This is the only ILO recommendation that was taken into account by the legislators.

Other ILO recommendations have been ignored. For instance, workers are still required to name the duration of the strike beforehand; disputes with regard to a minimum service to ensure essential work are still settled by an administrative body and there is still a ban on strikes for many categories of workers, including civil servants and railway workers. Employers are allowed to bring in replacement labour during a strike.

The July 2006 amendments to the Labour Code also made industrial action even more complicated. In order to start collective bargaining after a discrepancy report has been signed in the course of negotiations, the workers must re-issue their demands after they are approved by a general assembly or conference of all workers of the enterprise. Formerly, signing a discrepancy report used to automatically signal the existence of a collective labour dispute. According to new regulations, a strike can only be held within two months after the decision to call a strike has been made, while before the workers were free to decide the time of its start, and could take independent decisions to postpone or hold a strike.

Trade union rights in practice

Discrimination on the grounds of trade union activity: Trade union leaders and activists are often targets for discrimination on the part of the employers. Workers are pressured to quit trade unions.

Refusal to transfer trade union dues: The refusal to transfer trade union dues by employers is still the most common violation of the regulation enshrined in Article 377 of the Labour Code, which makes it obligatory for the employer to transfer trade union dues.

Refusals to register trade unions: In practice, the state registry authorities are often much more demanding with regard to the registration of trade unions than they are with regard to commercial organisations which undergo a full registration procedure.

In 2005 and 2006, the authorities refused to register trade unions which had decided to leave their federations. In February 2004 the Territorial Organisation (TTUO) of the St Petersburg and Leningrad Region ship builders' trade union took the decision to separate from the Russian Shipbuilders Union (RPRS), and the corresponding charter changes were registered by the competent authorities. Despite this, when around ten primary trade unions forming part of the TTUO of St Petersburg and Leningrad Region applied to the Federal Registry Office for state registration of the corresponding amendments to the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, their applications were all rejected. The reason given for the refusal to provide state registration was that the primary trade union organisations had left an All-Russian trade union. Appeals were filed and sent even to the Supreme Court, but the decision was considered legal. Over 2,500 workers virtually forced by the state authorities (registry offices and courts) to stay in the trade union they had left, formed a new primary trade union organisation, the Interregional Shipbuilders' Trade Union, and applied for state registration of the new primary trade union. State registration was denied, partly on the grounds that it was not possible to have "two primary trade unions within one enterprise". The court supported this decision. The organisation had not obtained state registration at the time of writing.

Violations in 2006

Trade union leaders prevented from visiting the workplace: The head of the trade union organisation of the Murmansk sea trade port, as well as the labour and labour safety inspectors, were refused entry to the port. The Administration of Murmansk Sea Port, which controls the functioning of the port and issues entry passes, refused to provide passes despite earlier court decisions requiring them to do so. For several months, the trade union was forced to buy one-time passes in order to enable trade union leaders to enter the territory of the enterprise, but later even this leeway was denied to them. As a result, trade union leaders have been unable to gain access to their members' workplace. They have been denied the opportunity of communicating with their members and of checking the enforcement of labour and health and safety legislation.

Members of the PROFSVOBODA trade union (OAO Surgutneftegaz, city of Surgut) were refused access to their members' workplaces. Appeals to the prosecutor's office had not been considered at the time of writing.

Harassment of the Independent Trade Union of GM-AvtoVAZ Workers (Togliatti): In July 2006, a group of GM-AvtoVAZ workers held a meeting and founded an independent trade union of GM-AvtoVAZ workers. After the list of trade union committee members and the minutes of the founding meeting were submitted to the employer, the trade union came under intense pressure. GM-AvtoVAZ management disconnected the e-mail and telephone at the workplace of the head of the trade union committee; two other committee members were 'temporarily' moved to new jobs without their consent. On 19 November, the deputy head of the trade union committee Ilsiyar Sherafutdinova was fired on a false charge of absence without leave.

Dismissal and intimidation against members of PROFSVOBODA: the independent trade union of OAO Surgutneftegaz workers (Surgut): The primary trade union organisation of OAO Surgutneftegaz workers 'Independent trade union PROFSVOBODA' was founded and registered in mid-2006. As soon as the union was created, its members came under pressure: they were prosecuted, dismissed and deprived of remuneration under various pretexts. In June, for example, two crane operators were fired, and later several electricians were prosecuted; in October, one of the trade union founders was fired. One of the trade union organisers was subjected to disciplinary sanctions four times in two months, his salary was reduced to from 6,000 to 2,000 rubles (from 240 to 80 USD) per month. Another trade union member had their salary almost halved as a result of rigged checkups. Drivers who repaired their own vehicles had their repairs allowance reduced by nearly three times in comparison to other workers, etc. Management was determined not to recognise the trade union, especially in court cases concerning violations of the rights of the workers who were discriminated against.

Union busting against NABAT: the trade union of SUAL-UAZ aluminium plant workers (Kamensk-Uralsky) ... : In October 2006, over 500 workers of the SUAL-UAZ aluminium plant (city of Kamensk-Uralsky) held a rally and decided to create the NABAT trade union. The next day, the deputy general director started collecting workers' statements to the effect that they had only come to the rally by chance, that their decision to form an independent trade union had been influenced by the crowd, and that they regretted this decision and were not going to join the NABAT trade union. The trade union leader S.V. Kogana, his deputy S.V. Loparevich and several other trade union activists and their family members were fired; the trade union came under pressure which included the local mass media. The directors of the plant sent messages containing the names of those fired to all the local enterprises, to prevent them from finding jobs elsewhere. The prosecutor's office and the city labour inspectorate refused to take part in resolving the dispute under the pretext that it was outside their sphere of competence. The trade union was not allowed to sign the collective agreement.

... and the trade union of ZAO KB 'Citybank' (Moscow): In December 2006, a primary trade union organisation was formed at the ZAO KB 'Citybank' (Moscow). A few days later, the bank administration announced the restructuring of the department, half of the members of which had joined the trade union. The administration held meetings with all the organised workers and criticised their decision to form a trade union, threatening them with obstacles to their further employment, and in some cases even with criminal prosecution; it held meetings in working teams proclaiming the creation of the trade union illegal. Eight trade union members were made redundant; one trade union committee member was transferred to another job in violation of the labour contract, and another one fired under a false pretext of absence without leave. The Citybank executives held an internal investigation into the activities of the trade union chair before he was employed by the bank. At the time of writing, these actions were being contested in court.

Failure to transfer trade union dues to trade union bank accounts: OAO "Aeroflot – Russian Airlines" stopped transferring trade union dues to the accounts of the Trade Union of Aviation Workers of OAO Aeroflot, citing the earlier decisions taken by the Moscow Savelovsky Court which maintained that the trade union was not a primary trade union organisation and therefore did not come under the collective agreement. The trade union of aviation workers filed arbitration appeals, but did not obtain the right to receive trade union dues.

In 2006, without giving any reasons and contrary to the long-established practice, OAO 'Murmansk Trade Port' stopped transferring trade union dues to the trade union account.

The administration of OAO Surgutneftegaz (Surgut) refused to transfer dues to the account of the independent trade union PROFSVOBODA created by the workers of OAO Surgutneftegaz in 2006, although this trade union had obtained state registration. The appeal to the prosecutor's office filed by the trade union had not been considered at the time of writing.

The administration of the Emergency Aid Unit of the Moscow Department of Healthcare refused to collect trade union dues from the workers' salaries and transfer them to the account of the Trade Union of Emergency Aid Workers 'Feldsher.ru'. The appeal filed by trade union members was rejected.

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